- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
In a gorgeous castle in the Scottish Highlands, surrounded by all the elements – fire, air, water, Claudia Winkleman – The Traitors’ pantomime villain Harry Clark breezed his way to victory in Friday night’s nerve-racking final. However, that win came at a price at the conclusion of series two of the BBC’s backstabbing blockbuster. Clark walked away with £95,150 – but only after ruthlessly betraying fellow contestant and friend Mollie Pearce. She was convinced that Clark was one of the good guys. When he was revealed as the last remaining Traitor, she collapsed into tears and exited whispering “Oh my f---ing God”. It was TV’s most riveting knife in the ribs since Game of Thrones and the Red Wedding.
“She spoke to me straight after,” Clark, 23, tells The Telegraph the day after that tense finale. “I obviously felt guilty, to be honest. For someone to be that close to the prize money and for it to be taken away – and that’s because of my doing it. It’s hard not to feel guilty.”
Guilty – but not to the point where he didn’t skip out of the castle and perform a jig reminiscent of Barry Keoghan’s at the end of Saltburn. Yet his next instinct was to see Pearce and clear the air. He had convinced her that he was the one person on The Traitors whom she could trust completely to be one of the “Faithful”. In fact, he’d been in with the bad guys all along – remaining undercover as fellow traitors such as Paul and Ross were unmasked and eliminated.
“I said to Claudia, ‘I want to see [Pearce] straight away to talk about it’. But I knew she probably wouldn’t. I left it anyway. Immediately afterward, production came and grabbed me and was like, ‘Mollie wants to talk to you.’ I was like, ‘Oh God, she’s going to right-hook me as soon as I walk in there.’ The first thing she did was give me a massive hug and was like, ‘I love but hate you at the same time.’ She appreciated the way I played the game. And told me I deserved it. Credit to her – she didn’t have to do that to me at all.”
Clark had been a Traitor from the very start. Until the finale, he’d maintained an air of saintliness that fooled everyone – especially poor Pearce. But during Friday’s grand decider, his best-laid plans almost came unstuck as fellow constant Jaz Singh saw something suspicious behind Clark’s beatific smile and tried to convince Pearce to help chuck her best mate on the bonfire.
She and Singh would have won and split the prize money if she had done so. But Pearce couldn’t bring herself to believe Clark had duped her – and so sacrificed Singh instead. As this unfolded, Clark’s face rippled with emotion: he just about maintained his composure but you could see the tension building in his eyes.
“It is so real. None of it’s scripted,” he says. “My emotions, especially there, were all over the shop. I was happy while being sad while being relieved. Happy I was in the final and was close to winning the money. I was proud of myself and how I played it. At the same time, I was sad. I had one more betrayal to do. And you had to hold your nerve to do it. I can’t even explain the emotions going through my head – let alone through everyone else’s as well.”
Clark has been following the reaction to the final – which was filmed last year – on social media and is well aware that he comes across on screen as the baddie who led poor, sweet Pearce on a merry dance. But he went into the show knowing it was a contest. Besides, he didn’t volunteer to be a Traitor. That choice was made by the producers.
“I was always worried, with the nature of the show, how I could come across. To the people that say I’m two-dimensional or whatever, I would say, you don’t truly know me as a person. When I played the game, I was myself 100 per cent, like an open book... I just had one little lie that I had to keep.”
Social media users are convinced that Pearce could not see Clark’s true nature because she had become romantically infatuated with him. Nothing could be further from the case, says Clark. They are both in solid relationships and hit it off as friends (Clark’s girlfriend, Anna Maynard, is a CBBC presenter). He’s right – their connection was sweet and wholesome.
They talked about their respective partners from the very start of their time on The Traitors, he reveals. These conversations didn’t always make it to the screen – but they were clear with each other about already being happily paired off.
“When we were getting to know each other, I knew more about her boyfriend than I did about her,” says Clark. “And it’s probably the same with me and my other half. All we would talk about together would be double dates. When we became friends, that’s why we built such a close connection. We had the same interests. When I see this whole thing that she fancied me, it’s like, no chance. She loves her fella more than anything. He’s an amazing guy. I’m just really good friends with her. Why can’t two young people be close friends anyway?”
Clark grew up in Slough in Berkshire as one of six children and served in the Army as a Lance Corporal. His maternal grandfather was in the Parachute Regiment and was the “driving force” behind his decision to sign up. He enrolled in the Army Foundation College, at Harrogate in Yorkshire, at 16 and trained as an aviation technician with the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers (REME). Last year, he received his “wings”, which means he can conduct essential maintenance on anything from helicopters to drones.
But far from disapproving of Clark’s on-screen tactics, the Army issued a press release celebrating his achievement, praising Clark as “100 Percent Traitor, 100 Percent Soldier”.
“At 16 years old, I had all the abilities and the emotions in a muddle. Joining the Army converged it all together and made me the guy I was,” he says. “The ability to be confident – going through games, it’s all about teamwork. The way my mental mind works – to disconnect emotion and see it as a game – the Army handles these emotions and these traits as a person. The Army [taught] me to pull that all together. It helped massively, working in high-pressure situations.”
He has previously been deployed overseas, though he’d rather not say where. But he is confident that life in the military prepared him for what he would go through on The Traitors. “Having the responsibility to get things done was the exact same as [on the show]. I saw it as a job and knew that I needed to do what needed to be done to get the job done. I was ready for anything. Being deployed overseas always comes with a certain level of danger in itself. I’ve been overseas a few times. It’s always dangerous, isn’t it?”
The day after the final has been a very busy one for Clark and the finalists; they’ve already appeared on Winkleman’s Radio 2 show and BBC Breakfast, and spoken to countless news outlets. One question that has to be asked, however, is how he felt when his fellow traitor, Andrew Jenkins, suddenly turned on him in the final and tried throwing him to the wolves. Calculating that he had nothing to lose, Jenkins had gone charging over the top. It was one of the few times Clark’s composure wobbled all season – though, as with Pearce, they’ve since stayed in touch and consider one another friends.
“I felt blindsided by it. It put me on the spot,” he says. “Somehow, I had to bring myself together, hold my nerve again, and act calm. I don’t want to give anything away... But, it’s called The Traitors. He’s well within his rights to come at me, like I came for him. It’s just the shock of being taken aback by it. When you don’t expect something and it happens – and it’s already an emotional environment – it’s just mental.”